TWO Gwanda-based police officers, who were accused of fatally assaulting a drunken prison officer for refusing to be taken to a police holding cell for detention have been acquitted by the High Court.
Tinofara Moyo (38) and Admire Matsveru (34) both stationed at Gwanda Police Station appeared before Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Maxwell Takuva facing murder charges in connection with the death of Johannes Moyo (33), a prison officer who was also stationed in Gwanda.
Justice Takuva acquitted the two cops following an application for discharge at the close of the State case by their lawyer Mr Simbarashe Chivaura of Mashayamombe and Company Attorneys.
The State, which was represented by Mrs Sifiso Ndlovu-Sibanda, conceded.
The judge ruled that there was no evidence linking the two cops to the murder after the only key State witness, Lovemore Tsvaki, backtracked from his warned and cautioned statement.
Tsvaki turned hostile against the State while testifying in court.
“It is trite at law that the State could not rely on the evidence of its witness who has been declared hostile. It’s unfortunate because the State failed to lead any other evidence and as courts our duty is to ensure that justice is done,” said Justice Takuva.
He said there was no evidence upon which the accused persons could be convicted. “Our hands are tied because no essential physical elements were established. Accordingly, both accused persons are found not guilty of murder and acquitted,” ruled the judge.
Tsvaki in his evidence said he was forced to sign his warned and cautioned statement by detectives amid threats.
He told the court that the post mortem report was falsified, arguing that the initial document showed that Johannes died as a result of injuries sustained following an accident.
Tsvaki, who is also a police officer, said the accused persons did not assault the deceased at any given time.
Prosecuting, Ms Sifiso Ndlovu-Sibanda said on January 9 in 2010 at about 10PM, Johannes was picked up by police after he was found lying on the side of the road with his bicycle.
He was taken to Gwanda Police Station where he was supposed to be detained overnight for his own safety.
The court heard that the deceased was drunk to an extent that he struggled to either talk or walk and police had to assist him.
After Johannes was booked for overnight detention, he was handed over to Tinofara and Matsveru who escorted him to the holding cells.
While being taken to the holding cells, the deceased protested and wrestled with the two police officers.
The two police officers allegedly assaulted Johannes before they tripped him. They allegedly went on to trample on him as he lay helplessly on the floor.
The following morning Johannes started complaining of pain and he was rushed to Gwanda Provincial Hospital where he died on admission due to injuries sustained during the assault.
A report was made to the police leading to the arrest of the two cops.
According to a post mortem report, the cause of death was due to multiple ribs fracture, perforated right lung and hypovolemic shock.